Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Lent
March 13th, 2018
The opening of Matthew 16 smacks us in the face with irony if we allow it. The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus asking him to show them a sign from heaven. We can easily get lost in Jesus’ suave reply and miss the bitter irony of the opening of this chapter. It is in the verses just preceding chapter 16 where Jesus feeds four thousand. Hello!? There’s your sign! Now, perhaps the Pharisees and Sadducees happened to not be at that event, but surely it was all the talk of the countryside. Surely, they had heard what had happened.
It seems to me that Matthew is using a quite effective device in crafting these stories together. How I have prayed for God to give me a sign - if he would only make this pencil fall off my desk right now as I type. Then I would know that there is a God and he would finally and completely put my doubts at rest. Jesus reminds us in another place that those who do not believe will be “ever seeing, but never perceiving.” Take a moment today and look for the signs that are all around. Stop talking so much and listen to the voice of God.
Right after his exchange with the Pharisees and Sadducees, it is the disciples who are misguided, still not “getting” the bigger picture. They slow down and think. They consider and... “Oh...” then they get it. It is difficult to imagine what Jesus’ life would have looked like in our day and age, but certainly one of his chief goals would have been to get us all to slow down and to be still and know that the Lord is God.
The Demand for a Sign
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.